New Jersey: Senate panel approves bill banning gay cure therapy

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — By a vote of seven to one, with two abstentions, a New Jersey Senate panel voted in favour of a bill that would ban social workers, psychiatrists and family therapists from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age,” Queerty reports.

The bill is set to advance to the full Senate for a vote.

Openly gay state assemblyman Tim Eustace, the bill’s main sponsor, says conversion or reparative therapy “constitutes child abuse” and says he introduced the measure after several young constituents complained about the practice, Queerty notes.

According to the report, the Senate panel heard the experiences of a number of people, including a transgender woman who was forced to undergo the therapy in an Ohio camp; the executive director of Garden State Equality, whose friend committed suicide after he went to a similar camp; and an 18-year-old student who was threatened with expulsion from his yeshiva if he didn’t undergo the therapy.

The report notes that high school senior Jacob Rudolph, whose coming-out video went viral earlier this year, started a petition to ban gay conversion therapy in the state, collecting more than 100,000 signatures.

Opponents of the New Jersey bill say it may intrude on patients’ rights and interfere with patient-counsellor relationships, Queerty notes.

Four gay men who have tried reparative therapy
have filed a civil suit in New Jersey against a counselling group that
they allege employs “deceptive practices” under the state’s Consumer
Fraud Act, The New York Times reported in November.

According to the report, the men allege they were “emotionally scarred
by false promises of inner transformation and humiliating techniques
that included stripping naked in front of the counselor and beating
effigies of their mothers.” After spending thousands of dollars in fees
for the therapy with no change in their feelings, the men were told that
their inability to convert was their own fault.

The counselling centre, known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for
Healing, or Jonah, describes itself as “dedicated to educating the
worldwide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional
factors that lead to same-sex attractions” and says it “works directly
with those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions,” including
non-Jews, the report goes on to say. The centre does not have official
standing within Judaism, it adds.


California also passed a ban on ex-gay therapy for minors in September. The measure was signed by Governor Jerry Brown and was scheduled to take effect Jan 1, but its enactment is on hold until arguments are heard on an appeal.

The head of Exodus International, a prominent proponent of ex-gay therapy, has repeatedly distanced himself from his organization’s “change
is possible” mantra, much to the intense chagrin of those still devoted
to the idea that all gay people need to rid themselves of homosexuality
is a good dose of prayer and therapy.

“I would say the majority, meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not
experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place
where they could say that they could never be tempted, or are not
tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction,”
Alan Chambers told a Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference on Jan 6.

In a July 6 story, The Times
also quotes Chambers as saying there is no cure for homosexuality, and
reparative therapy is an exercise in false hope for gays and
might even be harmful.

Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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